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Rock star from Johns Hopkins to lead Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health

M. Daniele “Dani” Fallin.

By David Pendered

Dani Fallin was a rock star at Johns Hopkins University when she accepted Emory University’s offer to lead the Rollins School of Public Health. Fallin’s term as dean is to start July 1.

M. Daniele “Dani” Fallin, with a doctorate in genetic epidemiology from Case Western Reserve University, gave up an endowed professorship at Johns Hopkins, the nation’s top public health school according to 2021 rankings by U.S. News and World Report. Fallin chaired a department, directed a research center and held joint appointments at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In August 2021, philanthropist Michael Bloomberg commended Fallin after she was named a Bloomberg Centennial Professor. The position provides a research endowment, which Fallin could have used to pursue her interests including autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and other psychiatric conditions, according to a statement issued at the time by Johns Hopkins.

“Now more than ever we need to invest in the cutting-edge research that will change lives, while also supporting the people leading it — people like Dr. Fallin,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Dr. Fallin has already contributed a great deal to the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, and I have no doubt that her work will continue to lead the field for years to come.”

Fallin chose to leave that behind.

Instead, Fallin will join Rollins School of Public Health to orchestrate an entire school, its research programs and the teaching of students who are to go out into the world. Graduates are to protect and improve the health of humans and the places where they work and reside.

The Rollins position is coveted, to say the least.

Rollins is tied for fourth place among public health schools, according to 2021 rankings by U.S. News. The retiring dean, Dr. James Curran, had led the school 26 years after helping lead the nation’s fight against AIDS and other diseases during his 25 years at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the CDC, Curran ranked as assistant surgeon general. He is credited with shaping Rollins into the institution it is today.

“We were the youngest, smallest, least endowed, least respected school on campus,” Curran was quoted in a Fall 2021 story profile of himself published by Rollins. “Now Emory, instead of worrying about us, is proud of us.”

Ravi Bellamkonda, Emory’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, indicated Fallin will be expected to expand Rollins’ capacity in teaching and research.

“Dr. Fallin comes to us with leadership experience at another great school of public health, and she impressed us all with her collaborative style, strategic thinking and vision for the role of public health in promoting health and wellness, including mental health,” Bellamkonda said in a statement. “Dr. Fallin has a history of mentoring and supporting faculty, and of supporting impactful, large interdisciplinary research efforts. She also cares deeply about the educational mission of our public health school.”

Emory’s statement noted that Fallin was selected after an international search. Curran announced his retirement in April 2021 as dean of Rollins. Curran intends to remain on faculty as a professor of epidemiology, according to the profile.

Gregory Fenves, president of Emory University, offered robust remarks in a Dec. 22 statement that announced Fallin’s appointment.

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Fallin as the next leader of the Rollins School of Public Health,” Fenves said. “The Rollins School is globally recognized for its top-ranked programs, innovative research, and outstanding faculty who are transforming the landscape of public health. Dr. Fallin’s multidisciplinary expertise and many years of experience at the leading school of public health at Johns Hopkins University will elevate the Rollins School in the years ahead, building on the impressive foundation created by our faculty, researchers, and tremendous students.”

Fallin cited Atlanta’s platform of health initiatives in her remarks.

“I am excited to join the Rollins School of Public Health to support and amplify its outstanding work. Rollins has an incredible combination of excellence, a culture of kindness and passion for public health across the many dimensions of our field,” Fallin said.

“The school has an impressive set of partners working to build and reinforce the public’s health including the CDC, Carter Center, Task Force for Global Health and many others,” Fallin added. “Atlanta is an ideal location, given the rich environment for learning at Emory and the proximity to such critical public health entities. Students at all levels, from undergraduates to executive leaders, are now searching for more information about public health, and Emory is able to provide knowledge and experiences to meet their needs.”




David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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